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Here’s a story from last month over at Science Made Easy, featuring a nice diagram which is (misleadingly, in my view) called the
Tree of Sex.
What makes a creature male or a female? If you mentioned the X and the Y chromosomes, you are correct. I mean, you’re correct if you ignore most forms of life on this planet. If you actually take the time to examine the lifestyles of different life forms, many of the basic assumptions about sex differences don’t hold.
I am going to try and explain this to you, using the Tree of Sex. This family tree traces the ancestry of sex in all of its weird and wonderful manifestations. Those Pie charts are coded according to the method of sex, and I will be explaining what each of those colour codes mean below.
–Faz Alam, What can we learn from the Tree of Sex?
Science Made Easy (3 June 2014).
You should read the whole article, because if you’re not familiar with this stuff, it’s pretty interesting from a scientific standpoint.
That said, I think that the main thing that this kind of diagram shows is that really it’s kind of a silly and obsolete bit of cultural detritus that we go on pretending that bees and mayflies and fig trees even have
female sexes that way that humans or turkeys (kind of, somewhat) have
female sexes. They have sexual reproduction, sure, but when it comes to the idea of the
sexes of individual organisms, what we’re talking about across all these different species are basically very different biological phenomena. They’re basically very different in what they arise from, structurally, and they’re also basically very different in how they function. Trying to wrap them up with human categories for sexual dimorphism is at this point kind of like imagining that the
queen of an anthill goes around wearing a little crown and ordering ant commoners to do her bidding.
Biological sex is not a natural kind, it is the projection of a social metaphor, and often it’s kind of a misleading or an unhelpful one.
- Actually, spoiler alert, biological sex is actually also really complicated in human beings and the binary social categories don’t line up all that perfectly with the diversity of actual human bodies.↩
Here’s an article from Slate that was recently circulating on social media, in which the feminist author Jillian Keenan argues in favor of legalizing polygamy.
Recently, Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council reintroduced a tired refrain: Legalized gay marriage could lead to other legal forms of marriage disaster, such as polygamy. Rick Santorum, Bill O’Reilly, and other social conservatives have made similar claims. It’s hardly a new prediction—we’ve been hearing it for years. Gay marriage is a slippery slope! A gateway drug! If we legalize it, then what’s next? Legalized polygamy?
We can only hope.
–Jillian Keenan, Legalize Polygamy!
Slate 15 April 2013.
Of course polygamy should be legal. Every form of marital relationship among consenting adults ought to be legal. If you advocate for the freedom of same-sex couples to marry, you ought to advocate for the freedom of people to marry as many or as few other people as they want, too. FRC thinks this is a reductio for same-sex marriage rights. Actually, it’s a positive reason for everyone to take a more expansive view of sexual and marital freedom.
Regulating marriage is one of the most ridiculous pretenses that the state engages in. The state’s activity in controlling marriage licenses has its historical basis in nothing other than massively invasive efforts to preserve the hetero-patriarchal social status quo (and, in the past, the racial status quo as well), and something that ought to be rooted out utterly. Where there’s no victim, there’s no crime, and where there’s no crime, there’s no reason for legal intervention. (You might ask,
If there’s no reason for legal intervention here, why is there any reason for legal licensing at all? And of course, the answer is that there isn’t. Marriage licenses ought to be abolished entirely. The only reason that states issue them to some people is so that they can deny them to others. To hell with that.)
We have a tendency to dismiss or marginalize people we don’t understand. We see women in polygamous marriages and assume they are victims. “They grew up in an unhealthy environment,” we say. “They didn’t really choose polygamy; they were just born into it.” Without question, that is sometimes true. But it’s also true of many (too many) monogamous marriages. Plenty of women, polygamous or otherwise, are born into unhealthy environments that they repeat later in life. There’s no difference. All marriages deserve access to the support and resources they need to build happy, healthy lives, regardless of how many partners are involved. Arguments about whether a woman’s consensual sexual and romantic choices are “healthy” should have no bearing on the legal process.
The definition of marriage is plastic. Just like heterosexual marriage is no better or worse than homosexual marriage, marriage between two consenting adults is not inherently more or less “correct” than marriage among three (or four, or six) consenting adults. Though polygamists are a minority—a tiny minority, in fact—freedom has no value unless it extends to even the smallest and most marginalized groups among us.
–Jillian Keenan, Legalize Polygamy!
Slate 15 April 2013.
As we approach the New Year, we naturally think of ends, and of beginnings; what has changed, and what we have lost. So hey, libertarians, let’s all get together and feel sorry about the golden age of Limited Government and Individual Liberty we have lost. Remember the ancient liberties that we all enjoyed only 60 years ago, back in the 1950s? Back when all military-age men were subject to the draft, people were being interrogated before a permanent committee of Congress over their political beliefs, the FBI was conducting massive illegal wiretapping, surveillance and disruption against nonviolent civil rights activists, the National Security Agency was established as a completely secret surveillance arm of the federal government, it was illegal for married or unmarried women to buy basic birth control, it was made illegal for anyone to buy any scheduled drug without a doctor’s prescription, government was conducting medical experiments on unwilling human subjects, Urban Renewal was demolishing the core of every major U.S. city to build government highways and housing projects, and massive community-wide immigration raids were terrorizing undocumented migrants throughout the Southwest.
Or like back in the 1940s when government spending was over 50% of GDP, nearly the entire consumer economy was subject to government rationing, Japanese-Americans were forced into internment camps, and a secret government conspiracy was building an entire network of secret cities in order to build atomic bombs to drop on civilian centers.
Or like back in the 1930s when the entire institutional groundwork of the New Deal was being implemented, Roosevelt was making himself president-for-life, government attempted to seize all gold or silver bullion in private hands, the federal government first instituted the Drug War, Jim Crow was the law of the land, Congress created the INS, Jews fleeing the incipient Holocaust in Europe were being turned away by immigration authorities, and psychiatrists were using massive electric shocks or literally mutilating the brains of women and men confined to asylums.
Or like the 1920s when it was illegal to buy alcoholic drinks anywhere in the United States, tariff rates were nearly 40% on dutiable imports, Sacco and Vanzetti were murdered by the state of Massachusetts, the
Invisible Empire Second Era Klan effectively took over the state governments of Colorado, Indiana, and Alabama, hundreds of black victims were massacred in race riots in Tulsa and Rosewood, when Congress created the Federal Radio Commission, the US Border Patrol, passed the Emergency [sic] Quota Act of 1921 and the Immigration Act of 1924, and the Supreme Court of the United States upheld the authority of the state to forcibly sterilize women deemed “feeble-minded” or “promiscuous” for eugenic purposes.
Or the 1910s, when the federal government seized control of foreign-owned companies to facilitate production of chemical weapons, imposed the first-ever use of federal conscription to fight an overseas war, invaded Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Mexico, Russia, and Europe, passed criminal anarchy and criminal syndicalism statutes, tried and convicted hundreds of people for belonging to radical unions, imprisoned hundreds of people for protesting the draft during World War I (ordered by the President of the United States and upheld by the Supreme Court in one of its most radical anti-free-speech decisions), deported hundreds of people solely for holding anti-state political beliefs, the Mann Act made it illegal to “transport women across statelines for immoral purposes” [sic], the Colorado National Guard machine-gunned and burned alive striking miners and their families in order to break a UMWA organizing campaign, and Congress created the Federal Reserve, the Income Tax, the Espionage Act, and the Sedition Act.
Or maybe like the 1900s. . . . .
Here’s an article from Gina Luttrell at Thoughts on Liberty. In one way, the article is a defense of libertarianism against a common rhetorical attack from political status-quo
Progressives. In another way, — and for much the same reason, because of the libertarian ideal that it appeals to — it is also a challenge to actually-existing libertarians. This is in many ways what the ideals, priorities and focuses of a sane
Liberty Movement ought to be. If what you’re doing doesn’t live up to that, then you need to think more about what you’re doing, and why. Here’s Luttrell, in Tales of a Non-Male, Non-Christian Libertarian:
In the history of mankind, who has been the most responsible for death, destruction, and oppression? Government. States are the entities that wage needless wars to prop up their own economies. Governments are the ones that systematically hunt down and slaughter their own peoples. Governments were responsible for Jim Crow, and it was the laws of the day that condoned, regulated, and perpetuated slavery. Even in our country today, a liberal, Democratic government is responsible for the mass incarceration of millions of people who have harmed no one. It is because of government policies that two people of the same sex can’t share property, have hospital visitation, or in some cases adopt children.
To my mind, and to the mind of many libertarians, the real enemy of the non-white, non-male, non-straight, non-Christian people in this country is not libertarianism, but the government. And when you greatly limit or even, dare I say it, abolish government, you free millions of socio-political minorities.
I will freely, perhaps more freely than most, admit that libertarians royally suck at understanding the societal oppression that faces minorities in our country today. I am about to make a trip to a conference to make that argument to them. They outright deny it in some cases. But not all of them do. I don’t deny that libertarians very often have issues recognizing these problems as legitimate, but there are also scores of them who do and who are developing free solutions for a free world–for everyone. This is not a problem of libertarianism, it is a problem with some libertarians, and it is a fixable problem.
Are there problems with libertarianism as a philosophy? Possibly–but that depends on what type of libertarianism you’re talking about. Libertarianism is a multi-faceted ideology, with a diverse group of adherents who all think different things about what liberty means and how best to achieve it.
–Gina Luttrell, Tales of a Non-Male, Non-Christian Libertarian
In Thoughts on Liberty (November 15, 2013)